The story of Syberia, a point-and-click adventure game that was recently released takes place in more or less present days. You play as Kate Walker, a young ambitious lawyer, who of course happens to be drop dead gorgeous. She is handed what seemed like a straight-forward assignment, being to handle the sale of an old automaton (mechanical "robots") factory located in a small village in the alpine valleys. However, things did not go as she and her employees had planned. And no, the town had not been infected with mindless aliens, neither had the villagers been turned into gory zombies. You see the owner of the factory; Anna Voralberg had died just before you arrived, but her long thought of as dead brother Hans was in fact very much alive. However, no one actually knew where Hans had moved to, just that it was somewhere in Siberia. But, as the sole heir of the factory Kate and her law firm needed his consent to actually finish the sale, and in the process of your mission you will travel to several exotic locations, all of which filled with interesting puzzles, and even more interesting people.
Some may think the story is a tad too short, but after having finished it myself I for one feel that the story wouldn't have been any better if it had been longer. Sometimes less really is more.
I'll start by saying that this is the most beautiful point-and-click adventure I have yet seen. My adventure collection comprises of nearly 300 games, so you can say I've seen a couple. The environment which Kate moves around on is pre-rendered, but unlike several other adventure games that use the same technique there is a real sense of life. For instance, water moves realistically, birds fly around, people move around, so you never feel like you're in a "dead" area. Secondly, the game also has plenty of pre-rendered animations, which are shown when more major actions take place. Thirdly, the real-time rendered people and objects look very good. They are all modelled very nicely, and the only thing I can put my thumb on is in the animation department. Basically Kate moves realistically, but you can tell when going from for instance jogging to walking up stairs that something can be improved. But in overall the graphics look outstanding. I'm positive that the guys who work in Microid's art department earned a good deal from this title, because only after a few minutes of playing you can tell that a tremendous amount of work has been put into making it look great. Some of the newer adventure games have a certain "cheapness" feeling over them, which usually derives from too little artistic work, but in Syberia I never had this feeling, not even once! Also, another of the advantages of using pre-rendered backgrounds is that the need for anti-aliasing is by far not as needed as in other games. But of course, if you have hardware that's up for it then feel free to turn it on, as it does give Kate and the others a slight face-lift.
I should also mention that the pre-rendered animations look awesome. In terms of complexity they are slightly below the infamous Blizzard movies, but they are of a higher resolution, and as slight 3d modeller / animator myself, I can tell you that it was not done quickly. In for instance Diablo 2 you were shown those great movies when you were moving from one area to another one, and it is done very similarly in Syberia. And the cool thing about doing so is that they serve as a reward; something to look forward to when you can just sense you're nearing the end of the location you happen to be in.
Sounds / Music
In every point-and-click adventure game you're bound to end up jogging / running a lot. You basically need to move a lot back and forth, and this tends to get somewhat boring if all you listen to is silence. Thankfully, the sound / music apartment at Microid are also very talented indeed. A musical score in the genre of classical music is played, and even though it is not played constantly it helps create the special mood of Syberia, which is something you will notice at least early in the game. Also, sound effects and voice-overs are important, and this is of course put into great consideration. Kate, and all the people she meets sound realistically. Though, a few of the voices sound a bit like someone else than the person depicted on the monitor, but generally it sounds genuine. What they say is also fairly high on the realism ladder, but sometimes the conversations tend to become a bit peculiar when choosing various conversational topics and you reveal something exciting twice, shocking the other party twice. This is something I hope is considered in future adventure games, but I suppose it would be hard to actually implement.
A lot of the people who like point-and-click adventures like them because it requires brain usage, rather than lightning quick reflexes. You often find yourself thinking about what possibly you could have missed, what minor object you have forgotten to pick up. Getting stuck is usual in adventure games, and I suppose it is something that increases a game's longevity. It would have been interesting to see an adventure game where you could press a key that would give a slight glow to objects that could be interacted with, but I suppose a lot of the challenge of finishing the game would be removed by doing so.
The simple gameplay of point-and-click adventures can also be an advantage to gamers. You basically move your mouse around and look for changes in the mouse pointer, which shows you if you can pick up something, go in for further inspection, or move onto a new "screen". You don't have a myriad of icons in the bottom like Pick Up, Give etc, so luckily when you get stuck you won't have to try every single combination to see if it produces the wanted effect.
While the gameplay of Syberia is simple and good it could have been reconsidered on some accounts, but if you have played a single similar game then you should have no problem playing this one.
As you might have understood, this game is good, very good. Even though some think of it as too short it does let you play for quite a few hours, and doing so in a beautifully rendered environment with intricate background music should entertain almost anyone who have the patience to devote yourself to a game. Syberia may not be as funny as some of the old Sierra / Lucas Arts classics, but its great atmosphere surpasses most of what I've played in this genre for years. Any adventure game should own this charming little gem of a game.